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Food Bank of Wyoming sees food donations drop as demand, costs rise

Boxes of food are wrapped on a pallet before being placed into a semi-tractor for delivery to a Wyoming food pantry recently at the Food Bank of Wyoming in Evansville. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — Food Bank of Wyoming’s fleet of semitrailers and box trucks cover a lot of ground. 

“I think this last fiscal year we ended up driving over 260,000 miles,” development manager Jill Stillwagon said during a recent tour of the organization’s 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Evansville. 

The charity organization is tasked with distributing food to local pantries across the state. It also operates some 25 mobile food pantries, and organizes programs that deliver food to homebound older adults.

Operating costs for fuel and freight have almost tripled over the past year, Stillwagon said. The price of meat and other food items have increased as well, adding additional pressure on the organization. 

Moreover, Stillwagon said food donations from grocery stores are down some 12%, likely caused by food supply chain issues. 

All this comes at a time when the food bank’s mission is essential to even more people.

“We’re seeing about a 30 to 34% increase over pre-pandemic levels of people who are finding themselves food insecure,” she said. “One in six children are food insecure here in Wyoming.”

The Food Bank of Wyoming says it distributed nearly 13.5 million pounds of food and nearly 10.9 million meals in 2021. The average meals distributed per day was 29,822, according to an impact statement. 

The food bank operations are funded by private donations, philanthropists and volunteers, she said. “Every dollar that’s raised here in Wyoming stays in Wyoming.”

“We’re always needing more volunteers to help pack those mobile pantry boxes or serve at a mobile pantry anywhere across the state,” Stillwagon added. 

The relaunch of the “Stamp Out Hunger” can drive, organized by U.S. Postal Service letter carriers, is aimed at helping the Food Bank with its supply. 

The program encourages residents to leave shelf-stable food goods at their mailboxes or curbside on the second Saturday in May, which this year falls on May 14. Letter carriers and volunteers will deliver the items to Food Bank locations for distribution. All of the food gathered will stay in Wyoming, according to Casper’s letter carrier organizer Dani Wolff.

Stillwagon said volunteers and financial donations are always welcomed and encouraged. 

“It was a big year for us, serving people who were finding themselves in a tough place,” she said.